Hold Your Tongue

Proverbs 26:22 “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.”

We’ve all heard the statement, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is a phrase often quoted to children to help them deal with verbal insults from others. It is important for children and adults to learn that harsh criticism and demeaning denunciations should not be allowed to define and direct them in negative and unproductive ways. But the unfortunate reality is that words do hurt and sometimes in ways that are worse than the damage sticks and stones can do.

On August 31, 1939, Adolf Hitler staged a false report of Polish troops invading Germany. German SS troops in Polish army uniforms went into a German radio station on the border and announced on German radio that Poland was invading Germany. The German people were incensed and fearful. So, Hitler engaged in a massive invasion of Poland the next day, September 1, 1939, and World War II was underway.

In 2008, Bernie Madoff confessed to an elaborate Ponzi Scheme where he conned investors of 50 billion dollars of savings by lying about his investment skills. His elaborate scam lasted almost ten years and ruined the financial lives of many people. He proved again that false words sown by self-centered people can produce awful results.

But let’s depart from the accounts of the hurtful words from history that were big newsmakers. What about the hurtful words that have come out of our mouths?

The proverb above, written by Solomon, describes the power of the hurtful words shared with people about another person. These words of gossip may be lies, they may be embellishments, or they may be facts shared out of pain or hurt for exposure or payback. Most of us must admit that we have been guilty of one or all of the above.

What Solomon is inspired by God to reveal to us is that there is incredible power to profoundly impact people’s opinions of others by the words we share. Words shared with others with the intent of ridiculing, exposing or defaming another are like the most delicious food served to a hungry person. They are usually quietly passed on, sometimes even as prayer requests, with the malicious intent of disparaging the reputation of another. Once planted in the ears, they are taken deep into the heart of a person in a way that many times irreversibly tarnishes a person’s character.

We would do well to consider the power of our tongue. Things that we share thoughtlessly and carelessly about someone we don’t care for or who has hurt us can damage or destroy that person’s reputation or character. We may not start a war or take billions from people, but our words can do a great deal of damage. Such communication is not in keeping with the ways of God.

Ask God to help you hold your tongue and think twice, three times or more before sharing words that will mar the reputation of another. May the Scripture teach us and guide us that says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)